The supposedly cursed poem known as Tomino’s Hell has been a famous creepypasta for a long time and an urban legend before that. But what is the truth behind the dark and twisted poem?

A popular Japanese urban legend is about Tomino’s Hell,トミノの地獄. It is a poem that is said you should only read in your mind, never out loud. It follows the tradition of Bloody Mary and Candyman that words hold power, and sometimes it can hurt like hell. 

The Legend Passed Around About the Cursed Poem

The legend is that Tomino, often thought to be a boy, lived in Japan and wrote the poem. He was a sickly child and sat in a wheelchair. The supposedly cursed poem is pretty gruesome at some parts and his parents didn’t approve of it at all. Because of it, they locked him in the cellar, not feeding him and he eventually died of bronchitis. 

The poem was from then on cursed with Tomino’s spirit and anger imprinted in every word, ready to come to life when reading it out loud. 

The Origin of the Tomino’s Hell Poem

This is obviously just the legend that is created of the legend of the legend. In fact we do know quite a bit about the actual writer of the poem, and he wasn’t thrown in a cellar to die because his parents thought the poem was too grim. 

The Writer: Yaso Saijō, 西條 八十 is the original writer of Tomino’s Hell that he wrote in 1919.

The poem is originally written by Yaso Saijō, 西條 八十, when he was 26 years old in a  collection of poems in 1919 called Sakin or Gold Dust. He was a university professor that studied at Sorbonne in France and had a long literary career.

Although most of his work was really geared towards children, making nursery rhymes and was recognised as one of the three great nursery rhymes of the Taisho period. He was for example the one introducing Alice in Wonderland in Japan, making Tomino’s Hell a work not like anything else from Yaso Saijō. Because this particular poem stands out as much darker and twisted than the average poem you read out loud. 

Read More: Check out all of our ghost stories and urban legends from Japan

There are many theories about the poem and why it was created in the first place. Many say that Yaso Saijō wrote the poem after the death of a family member as a way to express the feeling of sorrow and despair. His original intent is now lost though, and we are only left with his written words and the legend they created.

How could this poem from the turn of the century ended up being seen as a cursed poem many decades later? There is not a specific thing that is said to happen, but most often comes with a warning that ‘bad things will happen’. Most commonly, you are supposedly dragged to hell. 

What is the Cursed Poem about?

If you are curious about the whole poem of Tomino’s Hell, a translation into English is included at the end. but in summary it seems to tell the story of a little boy and his journey into hell. There are also many references to war and a descent into darkness and loneliness. 

Bildetekst: The painting commonly associated with the poem ‘Tomino’s Hell’ was not created with this specific poem in mind. It has been attributed to an artist named Yuko Tatsushima and was supposedly designed to represent death or suicide but not as they relate to the poem. The painting is called ‘I don’t want to be a bride anymore.’
Tomino’s Hell: The painting commonly associated with the poem ‘Tomino’s Hell’ was not created with this specific poem in mind. It has been attributed to an artist named Yuko Tatsushima and was supposedly designed to represent death or suicide but not as they relate to the poem. The painting is called ‘I don’t want to be a bride anymore.’

The Deadly Poem

The effects of the cursed poem are many, but alas, not well documented, but it is often accidents, loss of their voice, illness and in the worst scenarios, death. A young girl supposedly died a few moments after reading the poem out loud, but when, who she was, is never discussed. This also goes for the rumors of the university students dying after reading it also. The question is, did anything happen to those reading the poem?

Read Also: Check out more Japanese Urban Legends like Kuchisake-onna – The Urban Legend of the Slit-Mouthed Woman or The Haunted Inunaki Village in Japan

What we do know is that a man made a movie called To Die in the Countryside in 1974, it was much based on the poem of Tomino’s Hell. The writer and director Terayama Shuji died after and people started to say it was because of the cursed poem. 

Although we know that Terayama died early at 47, nine years after the movie came out, he died of a liver complication of a liver disease that he had been battling since he was a teenager. And he didn’t even quote the poem, but was only influenced. Is that enough to invoke the curse? 

When we got to the 80s, there was a trend of filming when friends read the poem out loud. This also became a trend in the early 2000s across forums of users writing that they were going to read the poem out loud, but then never came back to post how it went. 

The poem was read out loud many times throughout the writer’s lifetime without it doing anything to the writer who lived a long life. So according to the legend lore, the writer himself can read Tomino’s Hell out loud without the backlash of the curse?

It wasn’t until by Yomata Inuhiko, 四方田 犬彦, in his book of poem The Heart is Like A Rolling Stone, 心は転がる石のように, he called out the poem in 2004. Yomota claimed that the reader would suffer a terrible fate, but rumors about the dead director and the students were already whispered about under the surface. And at the dawn of the internet, the poem got resurrected and was sent frequently in forums with the curse attached to it. 

Tomino’s Hell Translated to English

Perhaps the feeling of sickness from reading Tomino’s Hell is something we can attribute more to the poem itself and the eerily feeling it leaves you with. And it perhaps isn’t the power of a curse people feel the sickness off, but the power of word. 

The English translation of the poem has been mostly done by people just trying to get the point across. However, when translated and spread on a global scale, it often shows up in a vacuum without any history of both the real writer and the history from the previous decades before the internet. But a writer and translator David Bowles did a good translation of the disturbing poem that weren’t just a simple google translate. Read the entirety with his more in depth notes here.

Tomino’s Hell

Elder sister vomits blood
younger sister’s breathing fire
while sweet little Tomino
just spits up the jewels.

All alone does Tomino
go falling into that hell,
a hell of utter darkness,
without even flowers.

Is Tomino’s big sister
the one who whips him?
The purpose of the scourging
hangs dark in his mind.

Lashing and thrashing him, ah!
But never quite shattering.
One sure path to Avici,
the eternal hell.

Into that blackest of hells
guide him now, I pray—
to the golden sheep,
to the nightingale.

How much did he put
in that leather pouch
to prepare for his trek to
the eternal hell?

Spring is coming
to the valley, to the wood,
to the spiraling chasms
of the blackest hell.

The nightingale in her cage,
the sheep aboard the wagon,
and tears well up in the eyes
of sweet little Tomino.

Sing, o nightingale,
in the vast, misty forest—
he screams he only misses
his little sister.

His wailing desperation
echoes throughout hell—
a fox peony
opens its golden petals.

Down past the seven mountains
and seven rivers of hell—
the solitary journey
of sweet little Tomino.

If in this hell they be found,
may they then come to me, please,
those sharp spikes of punishment
from Needle Mountain.

Not just on some empty whim
Is flesh pierced with blood-red pins:
they serve as hellish signposts
for sweet little Tomino.

—translated by David Bowles
June 29, 2014

The Enduring Legend of Tomino’s Hell

In conclusion, the legend of Tomino’s Hell is a captivating tale that has captured the imaginations of many. While the origins of the curse surrounding the poem are unclear, it’s evident that the eerie and dark nature of the verses has contributed to its status as a famous creepypasta and urban legend.

Whether the curse is real or simply a product of superstition, one thing is certain: Tomino’s Hell continues to intrigue and haunt those who come across it. The power of words and their ability to evoke intense emotions and even fear is a theme that resonates throughout this chilling cursed poem.

So, if you dare, immerse yourself in the dread of Tomino’s Hell, but remember to tread cautiously, for you never know what secrets and curses may be unleashed when the words are spoken aloud.

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